Cookies, hot cider, and the wonderful aroma of evergreen are among the joys of the season. Unless, of course, you've decided to use an imposter--an artificial tree. A fresh tree offers much more than an unmistakable spicy scent, especially if you and your family cut your own. Read on for reasons to stick with the real thing.
Trees are available at most supermarkets, and they are sold from special lots set up in November. However, tree farms give families the opportunity to choose and cut their own evergreens, ensuring peak freshness as well as the perfect size and shape. Some farms, such as Country Cove Christmas Tree Farm near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, offer hayrides, refreshments, and tours in addition to free advice.
"We try to offer a family experience that will, hopefully, turn into a tradition," says Judy Clayton, who owns the farm with her husband, Joe. "The kids love to go out with their families and search for a perfect tree."
A freshly cut evergreen won't make a big dent in your pocketbook or wallet either. According to Judy, their 6-foot white pines start at $28.
Finding the right one takes some patience though. "When you're looking for a great tree, first of all you want to find one with a nice shape and size," advises Joe Clayton. "Next, look at the color and freshness. Finally, you want to check the density of the needles and the strength of the limbs." Most people, he notes, search for a tree that is similar to the ones they remember from their childhood.
Real evergreens also protect and nurture the environment, Joe adds. Today, instead of coming from forests, 98% of all Christmas trees are grown on farms where, for every one cut, at least one seedling is planted. This process helps replenish the stock and keeps the atmosphere supplied with oxygen. Also, real trees are recyclable, whereas artificial ones consist of nonbiodegradable plastics and metals that take up space in landfills.
Visiting a tree farm provides an opportunity to get out and enjoy the countryside--something many people don't find time for these days. This rendezvous with nature can nurture your spirit and get you ready for the Christmas season. But for those who don't have time to cut their own tree, there's hope. Facilities such as Whited Farm Fresh Christmas Trees in Fort Myers, Florida, supply precut and packaged trees. They are delivered fresh from Oregon and North Carolina and are placed in water upon arrival to ensure freshness.
"Our trees start at $19.95," says owner Russ Whited. "But I've done a 50-foot fully decorated tree for around $47,000. It just depends on what you're looking for."
Country Cove Christmas Tree Farm: 1189 Cut Off Road, Murfreesboro, TN 37129; (615) 895-4755 or www.countrycovetrees.com. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily November 29-December 22. Whited Farm Fresh Christmas Trees: 11000 South Cleveland Avenue, Fort Myers, FL 33907; (239) 939-1430. Hours: 8:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. daily November 29-December 23.
"Start a Tree-Cutting Tradition" is from the 2002 Home for the Holidays issue of Southern Living.